“When you are uncomfortable you are about to grow” – Jack Kornfield
Networking can seem scary and uncomfortable. This is true for most people—students, professionals, academics, and even experts in the field can feel intimidated by networking.
I recently facilitated a Networking Workshop at the 2013 Dia De Los Muertos Pre-Health Conference, hosted by the UC Berkeley Chicanos in Health Education (CHE) student organization. And like many other workshops and seminars I’ve facilitated, the attendees expressed fears and anxiety towards networking. Some of these perceptions and concerns were fear of rejection or being turned away, feeling that he or she had nothing to offer, or that networking felt contrived or forced. These are common perceptions that arise time and time again.
But the power of networking is profound, and networking is a vital step in pursuing your authentic health career path.
So why is networking necessary?
- Will enhance your ability to get a job, internship, or acceptance into graduate school
- Provides new ideas or ways to do things
- Strengthens your reputation and influence in the field
- Can help you find and develop relationships with mentors
- Can help you advance your career
- Illustrates how the world works
- Facilitates a flow of people and opportunities
So how can you overcome your fears of networking and reap these benefits?
- Build your confidence. It’s important to understand that networking is a two-way street: both parties get something out of it. In this interaction you have a lot to offer. The person you are networking with gets a lot out of the conversation with you—connection and positive interaction with another person in the field, the rewards of assisting someone, a potential student or employee, and much more.
- Develop an elevator speech— An elevator speech is an important tool to have at your disposal; it quickly and clearly provides information about who you are, what you are interested in, and what you would like more information about. Here is an easy template to follow: “I am _______. I am a student/alumni of _______. I am majoring/working at __________ or a member of _________. My current health career direction(s) or interests are ______”
- Prepare and Practice—networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If you’re concerned about reaching out to someone or attending an event that will provide networking opportunities, develop a plan in advance. You can bring notes on your PDA or index cards, practice your introduction and elevator speech with a friend, practice your handshake, assign YOUR business cards a pocket, and get familiar with the appropriate dress code.
Networking doesn’t have to be a stressful experience, and can provide an array of opportunities to advance your academic, professional, and personal goals.